Nova Scotia community reeling after death of young athlete
Braeden Bannister, 15, died after a medical emergency while hunting with his father
An athlete and junior firefighter from Lantz, N.S., is being remembered as a compassionate and hard-working teenager who loved to help others.
Braeden Bannister, 15, died suddenly on Friday after a medical emergency while hunting with his father.
Jeff Bannister said his son was a happy person and always had a smile on his face.
"He had a heart of gold. He would give you the shirt off his back," he said in a phone interview on Sunday.
Braeden started playing hockey at age five, and this year was named the youngest player on the Hants East Rural High school hockey team, his father said. Braeden also played competitive baseball.
The Grade 10 student became a junior firefighter with the Lantz Fire Department in February, something that was a passion.
"He was all about helping others. He put others before himself. He had a huge, huge heart," his father said.
"He loved life, and he loved his younger brother. His younger brother has autism and he was very compassionate to his brother and looked after him. He put his brother's interests before his own."
Braeden is also survived by his mother, Angie, and his 12-year-old brother, Kevin.
Ryan Isenor, a family friend and one of Braeden's former hockey coaches, said East Hants is a tight-knit rural community and the loss is being widely felt.
"Everyone in the community is just devastated," said Isenor, whose son is the same age as Braeden and was friends with him.
Isenor described Braeden as a "gentle giant" — he was often larger than his peers, but he was friendly, kind and dedicated.
Entire community 'shaken'
"You could get mad at him 15 times but every time, at the end of the day, there's always a smile on his face at the end of it," he said.
The East Hants Minor Hockey Association posted a tribute to Braeden on its website, saying he always had a passion for the game and loved to compete.
"Braeden's passing has shaken our entire community and leaves a big void in the lives of those who knew and loved him," the statement said.
Lantz Fire Department also acknowledged the loss on its Facebook page, calling Braeden an "active member who took a keen interest in training and serving our community in any way possible."
The Chignecto Central Regional Centre for Education said in an email that there would be counsellors at Braeden's school on Monday for students and staff who wish to speak to someone.
"This will be a significant impact on our school community," the statement said. "Our thoughts and hearts are with Braeden's family, friends and our entire Hants East community."
Jeff Bannister said the outpouring of support from the community has been overwhelming. A GoFundMe campaign had raised nearly $20,000 by Sunday evening.
He said the family doesn't know the cause of death. He was deer hunting with his son on Friday and Braeden collapsed when they returned to their truck.
The family is planning for a memorial to be held at the East Hants Sportsplex. The information will be posted soon on the website for Ettinger Funeral Home.